The United States Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against a South Florida food packaging plant for wage theft. According to the court documents that were filed in June 2018, Green Bean Packers, Inc. owes 351 current and former employees nearly $1 million in back overtime pay and damages.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges that the company regularly failed to pay their workers overtime pay dating back to 2013. Their employees often worked more than 100 hours per week with no days off and no overtime pay. Minimum wage laws require that all employers pay their employees one and a half times their hourly wage for all overtime hours worked beyond 40 hours in a week. Unfortunately, since many of these employees immigrated from Central America, they were unaware that they were entitled to overtime benefits by law.
Workers at Green Bean Packers were often paid by two different companies during a single pay period. The first 40 hours of their work week was paid by Green Bean Packers, while the rest of the hours they worked were paid by another company with close ties to the owner of Green Bean Packers. This is a common loophole often used by companies in Florida to avoid paying employees overtime pay and benefits.
Green Bean Packers has agreed to pay back the nearly $1 million in wages that is currently owed to their employees by Sept 30, 2021.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes standards for minimum wages, overtime pay, and child labor. This act protects more than 135 million workers across the country in all types of employment. When businesses fail to fairly compensate their employees beyond the 40-hour threshold established by the U.S. government, then they may be guilty of wage theft.
Wage theft is a serious issue in the agricultural industry, and it can have long-lasting consequences for both employees and their families. According to the Department of Labor, 483 agricultural companies were investigated over 15 months, starting in January 2017. Of those companies, 78% were guilty of violating wage laws and more than 3,400 workers were owed $1.4 million in back pay.
Agricultural farms often employ immigrants. And according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey, 48% of all farm laborers in the U.S. are undocumented immigrants. Of the 2.5 million farm workers employed in the United States, only 1.2 million are lawful immigrants. Even when workers have legal documentation to work in the United States, they are often fearful of losing their jobs and reluctant to speak up. This allows unscrupulous companies like Green Bean Packers Inc., to take advantage of them by refusing to pay them fair wages, overtime pay, and other employment benefits that they are legally entitled to.
If you’ve been compensated unfairly at work, are the victim of wage theft, have not been given the overtime pay you deserve, or have questions regarding unfair wages or employment, it is important to speak to an experienced Miami employment lawyer immediately. Call the Law Office of Keith M. Stern, P.A. today at 888-315-8771 for a free consultation. We believe in holding unscrupulous or negligent employers responsible for the financial harm they’ve cause their employees.